I come to you after witnessing six executions and talking about the death penalty for 35 years. I’m on fire to end the government killing because I’ve seen it way too close, and I now have a pretty good idea of how it works – or not. I wasn’t at all surprised to see Donald Trump Order 13 executions by the federal government performed before he resigned: he had discretion and he used it. He operated within the hopelessly flawed guidelines for government killings set by the Supreme Court in 1976 Gregg v. Georgiawhen it reintroduced the death penalty. After a national hiatus from 1972 to 1976 Gregg renewed our capricious, racist, broken capital punishment system that has caused and sustained unspeakable suffering.
I was catapulted into this debate in 1984 after witnessing the debate Electric shock from Elmo Patrick Sonnier in Louisiana’s killing chamber. In those days it seemed that almost everyone in Louisiana thought the death penalty was a just and just punishment for murder. Sonnier and his brother Eddie had killed two teenagers – shot them in the back of the head at close range and wildly ripped those tender young buds from the tree of life. How dare anyone say that this murderer’s monster shouldn’t pay with his own life for his crime? As a Catholic nun, what did I know about the criminal justice system? I had spent my adult life teaching children or leading adult Bible study groups in a white Catholic suburban church. “The nun is over her head,” joked Tim Robbins as he worked on his film adaptation of my book about the case. Dead man goes.
And I certainly was – but I stayed with the topic, took part in the abolition movement and was happy when state after state closed its killing chambers. And year after year, fewer citizens support death as a punishment. A Gallup poll in late 2019 When asked to choose between the death penalty or life without parole, only 36 percent of Americans supported death. In 2020 there were a total of seven state executions, the lowest since 1983. And reform attorneys who pledge never to use the death penalty or use it sparingly are on the rise – even in Virginia, a former slave state that does so has since executed 113 people Gregg was decided, only second to Texas.
As a society, we recognize that it is unwise to give government officials authority over the life or death of our citizens. Since 1973 173 Wrongly convicted death row inmates were fortunate enough to emerge from their death wards after the flaws and lies that brought them there were exposed. For nine of the 1,532 people executed since 1973 One person was exonerated.
That brings us to GreggMain mistake that makes the implementation of the death penalty practically impossible in view of the constitutional requirement of equal protection under the law. Gregg’S blurred criteria– that a death sentence should only be imposed on the “worst of the worst” – is impossible to decipher. However, over the past 45 years a profile of the “worst of the worst” has clearly emerged: poor people who cannot afford a lawyer to defend them; People who are mentally ill; those broken in childhood by neglect, abuse, and violence; and the most noticeable, ubiquitous feature of all, those who killed white people.
Gregg awarded to prosecutors the power of death choice; If they choose not to seek death, the government will not kill the accused. Prosecutors and attorneys general have accepted that power in Texas that has been exercised 570 executions since the 1970s over a third from all; four More people are expected to die in 2021. Today it exists 205 Texas death row inmatesMany of them are in the final stages of their appeal and are at the mercy of the Attorney General and Attorney General ardent Republican governor for the death penaltyGreg Abbott, just like federal inmates at Terre Haute, Indiana, U.S. prison were at the mercy of Trump.
Gregg reinstated this deeply flawed punishment, which is subject to prejudice and human error and which can be used by capricious presidents and governors. So we come to Trump’s rampage, the ended a 17 year hiatus in federal versions. Lisa Montgomery Pardon asked Trump to take into account violent sexual abuse by her stepfather and sex trafficking by her mother. Montgomery’s crime was unspeakable: killing a pregnant woman and cutting the fetus from her womb to call it her own. After every calculation, it was a crazy person’s act – exactly what their lawyers did pleaded in court in an effort to save their lives. But the “worst of the worst”? She is, said her stepsister, “The most broken of the broken.”
A lawyer on Montgomery’s team told me that when Lisa learned that her date of death had been moved from December to January, Lisa paused and barely whispered, “Just eight days …” Joe Biden would be inducted on January 20th.
We now have a chance with President Biden, who Campaign to end the federal death penalty. He can reassure death row inmates that they will not fear execution. But I hope he goes further and uses his power to turn their death sentences into life.